Time to Renew and Rebuild America’s Hollowed Out Middle Class

  By Frank F Islam & Ed Crego, February 26, 2021 (Image credits: Tom de Boor, Gretchen Hermes, Adobe, et al)

  • The middle class share of U.S. aggregate income had fallen from 62% in 1970 to 43% in 2018 while the upper income’s share had gone from 29% to 48%.
  • The median net worth of the middle class was at $101,800 — less than what it was two decades ago in 2008.
  • Relationships: Family instability is rising and community ties are weakening.
  • Health: The U.S. has some concerning trends regarding the mental health of its citizens. (We would add physical health as well.).
  • Respect: A lack of respect has led to polarization and discrimination — which have become imbedded in institutions and systems.
  • Scholarships for Service: tuition-free college for national service volunteers.
  • Twenty days of guaranteed paid leave per year for all workers to lessen the time squeeze.
  • Universal access to effective, no-cost family planning to strengthen families.
  • A universal tax on sugary drinks to prevent obesity and improve health.
  • Healthcare: Pool risk, cut costs, and provide disability insurance.
  • Immigration: Control immigrant flow, initiate economic integration, and encourage earned citizenship for those already here.
  • Education: Provide opportunities for higher education and vocational training
  • Finances: Reduce individual debt and build up individual assets.

Implement a Major Jobs Program. Near the end of May 2020, in a blog, we proposed a massive and targeted jobs bill. At that time, 39 million people had filed for unemployment and it was projected that more than 15 million of those jobs would be lost forever. In February 2021, the Associated Press reported nearly 10 million jobs remain lost due to the pandemic. The middle class can not survive unless the bulk of those jobs are restored and Americans are put make into meaningful and good paying employment as soon as possible.

Ensure Adequate and Affordable Healthcare. It is no secret that the Trump administration did everything it possibly could to decimate Obamacare and that the costs of healthcare shot through the roof before the pandemic. The pandemic and other factors had an excruciating effect on the health of all Americans. The average life expectancy in the U.S. in the first half of 2020 fell by nearly one year for Whites, nearly two years for Hispanics, and nearly three years for Blacks. Many middle-class Americans are still uninsured and those who pay for their own coverage pay much higher premiums than those who are covered by their companies. This diminishes their chance of remaining in the middle class.

Provide Home Owner Assistance. Approximately nine million Americans lost their homes during the Great Recession. Standards for securing loans for mortgages became much more stringent after that. In spite of this, COVID-19 has placed millions of home owners at risk of losing their homes due to their inability to pay their mortgages. There have been short term forbearance measures in the COVID-19 stimulus packages, but as the economic consequences of the pandemic prolong joblessness or reduced income for many in the middles class, it will be essential to develop assistance in mortgage forbearance and restructuring for the longer term.